A controversial Collier County business owner scored a victory this week in a lawsuit against the School District of Lee County, but where the case goes from here gets complicated.
Fresh fruit and vegetables from the Seed to Table Market are still off the menu at Lee County schools, and now, instead of paying grocery store owner Alfie Oakes for his produce, the school district owes his attorney for legal fees.
“It’s another victory toward the victory that’s coming. And it’s a real shame for the taxpayers of Florida and Lee County that they’ve been trying to hide this information,” Oakes said.
Oakes is referencing information through public record requests the school district failed to provide Oakes’ lawyer, Steve Bracci. He hoped to uncover facts that led to the district’s decision to cut Oakes’ contract, but instead, he was left with more questions.
“Why last summer were they reluctant to give these records right away? Was there something going on?” Bracci asked.
A judge ruled in Bracci’s favor, and Oakes’ lawsuit over the termination of Seed to Table’s contract with the district will move ahead.
“They, as a government agency, can’t become political actors – other people can, other private businesses can choose that, but as a government agency, contracting with private individuals, they can’t weaponize their agency against people to basically oppress their people,” Bracci said.
“They’re going to pay one way or the other,” Oakes said.
Oakes, who has made headlines over his anti-mask stance, said he’d rather sell produce. “I would rather have the contract back than $50 million, but we’ll see what happens.”
The judge awarded Oakes’ attorney legal fees estimated to be around $50,000. The school district wouldn’t tell us how much money they spent in the lawsuit but say they received the final order and do not plan to appeal.